School board tosses out senior project requirement

By Sara Bruestle | Sep 03, 2014

This year’s Mukilteo district high school seniors will be the first class in seven years to graduate without completing a culminating project.

The Mukilteo School Board on Aug. 25 dropped the “senior project” as a high school graduation requirement for Mukilteo School District students.

Seniors at Kamiak and Mariner high schools have mixed feelings about not needing to complete the project to earn their diplomas.

While most said it’s a relief that they have one less assignment to worry about, some said they are disappointed they don’t have to do it.

“I'm actually mad it's gone,” Kamiak senior Amanda Parker said. “I haven't thrown a single paper away since my freshman year; they're all under my bed in totes.

“I may be the odd one out, but the culminating project was something I was always looking forward to. It's almost like a right of passage.”

The school board followed state revisions, made July 10, which reduce the number of graduation requirements from four to three for the classes of 2015 and after.

“The state Board of Education has dropped it as a requirement, so we did the same,” district spokesperson Andy Muntz said.

Students must still meet the following requirements to graduate: earn a minimum of 22.5 credits, create a High School and Beyond Plan, and meet standard on state assessments in reading, writing, math and science.

Although it is no longer state mandated, school districts have the option to keep the culminating project as a graduation requirement.

“We chose not to continue it,” Muntz said.

ACES High School, however, which had established its own senior project before it was a graduation requirement, has opted to keep it in the curriculum for its job-shadowing class.

The state Board of Education established the requirement for a senior project, formerly the “Culminating Exhibition,” in 2000 for the classes of 2008 and after.

There were no statewide standards for the projects. Each district set its own rules.

In the Mukilteo district, it was an opportunity for students to apply what they learned in a “real world” way. Students were required to pull together a portfolio of work and give a 20-minute presentation to a panel of judges. They earned either a “pass” or “fail.”

“The way we’ve done the culminating project, it’s more of a review of what they have accomplished in class,” Muntz said. “We elected to make it basically a celebration of their high school career.”

The repeal of the project as a graduation requirement was the work of a Washington state high school student. Her senior project was to eliminate the senior project.

The state Board of Education was persuaded.

After getting feedback from principals, teachers and counselors, Superintendent Marci Larsen asked the school board to toss the requirement.

The school board agreed resources would be better spent providing guidance to students as they approach graduation, such as through a career counselor.

“The state [also] realized that districts had different requirements for the culminating exhibition,” said Judy Schwab, president of the Mukilteo School Board. “There wasn’t a consistency.”

Mariner senior Vanessa Mach is relieved. She said she’s already got enough to do from the list of classes and exams she must take and pass – not to mention college applications she must fill out.

Kamiak senior James Kim disagreed.

“Talking about yourself and your goals for 20 minutes is not a very hard task,” Kim said.

“[It] not only brings drive in the student, but also a way to find something you are passionate about. Removing a program that allows a student to explore their interests is devastating.”

After 13 years of schooling, Parker said it’s frustrating that now they don’t get to explain how the school district has prepared them for their futures. It makes her feel unappreciated.

Mariner senior Mia Davison disagreed.

“The senior project was always a really basic and unimportant assignment,” Davison said. “[It] was just another thing for a senior to slip up on.

“Out of all the elimination rounds a student goes through, this one wasn't all that valuable, seeing as they've already passed everything else.”

In addition, some Mukilteo graduates said they appreciated the senior project.

“As someone who did the senior project, I would say it was actually quite useful and not as stressful as people think, but [maybe] that's just me,” said Kyleah Hess, who graduated from Kamiak this year.

Kaella Bravo, who graduated from Mariner in 2013, agreed.

“[It was a] great tool for seniors to have an idea of what the so-called ‘real world’ will be like,” Bravo said.

“Personally, my culminating project forced me to see what my skills are and to be able to connect that to what I want to do in life.”

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